Kisielius: Our goal is to win the Baltic League

PRIENAI – After a down year for basketball in Prienai last season, the team has undergone a true revival, which coincides with the return of coach Virginijus Seskus and some former players.

Although the name of the team changed, Laimonas Kisielius, one of a number of ex-Prienai players to sign with Vytautas, says the unique atmosphere is the same. And the results would attest to that. 

 

Boasting an impressive 9-0 record, the Lithuanian side is the only undefeated team in Triobet BBL and the 30-year-old forward has been a key cog in the successful start of the season for the club, earning the December MVP award.

In the two games he played over the month, the 30-year-old forward averaged 20.5 points, 5 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2 steals and was among the most efficient players in the league, making 69% and 53.8% of his shots from two-point range and from beyond the arc respectively.

Kisielius spoke to BBL.net about being back in Prienai, the team’s title aspirations in Triobet BBL and the desire to fight for medals in Lithuania, as well as the difficulties that come along with having a relatively thin roster.

First of all, congratulations on picking up BBL Player of the Month honors for December. In terms of BBL, everything seems to be going smoothly – the team is winning you are playing well. How would you evaluate the first part of the season in the Baltic League?

I think it’s going pretty well so far, as long as we keep winning games. As far as the Player of the Month award goes, it was only for the two games we played in December, so I don’t take it as a very good achievement. But the team is winning and we are playing well, that’s all that matters.

After starting the season red-hot in the domestic league, Vytautas finished the year with a five-game losing streak in LKL. What were the main reasons for this poor stretch of play, in your mind, and how does it affect you and your confidence going forward?

I think the biggest reason is our health. Our roster is only eight-players deep and when we lose somebody to an injury, it’s kind of hard to play without certain guys. We played a few games without our main center, we played some games without our main point guard. You know, it’s tough when the rotation is only six or seven guys. As long as we stay healthy, I think right now we’re starting to click again after all these losses. I think we’re going to be fine.

There are a lot of old faces from the 2013-14 season, when you last played in Prienai, in the team this season. Has the club kept its charm and uniquely free flowing atmosphere? Are there any noticeable differences?

The main difference is the players on the team, but as you say, there are a few guys who are the same from two years ago. We still have good chemistry. It’s all Lithuanians on the team, so we don’t have any communication issues with each other, most of us live together over here. There are different personalities on the team than two years ago, but it’s mostly the same atmosphere.

Has the stint with Lietuvos Rytas at all changed how coach Seskus approaches things?

He seems a little bit more confident, but other than that I don’t think there are big changes in him. I guess not.

Vytautas has the best record in the BBL right now, what are your goals for the competition?

I’m not going to deny that our goal is to win it all. As I said before, if we stay healthy, we do have a good chance. I mean, our goal is to win. It’s as simple as that.

Some stronger teams from FIBA Europe Cup could join from the BBL Play-Offs. Vytautas had also received an invitation to play in the tournament, but the situation evolved unfavorably. When you go to play against teams like Juventus, Pieno Zvaigzdes or Siauliai, does that add extra motivation to prove that you are better?

Of course. It’s good that those teams join, if they do join. That just increases the level of the competition. We’re going to be playing these teams either in LKL or BBL either way. It increases the level and we enjoy the opportunity to beat them.

On paper, Vytautas has assembled, perhaps not a very deep, but a really strong-looking roster. You have defeated Neptunas this season, but Zalgiris and Lietuvos Rytas proved tougher to handle. As the season goes along, do you think you can challenge these teams for the medals in Lithuania?

Yeah, we just need to play our game. As long as we stay together on the floor. We do have to get lucky a few games, but I see why we can’t compete with them.

To finish on a broader stroke, how was 2015 for you on a personal level and what would you like for the year ahead to bring?

It was good, I had a good season in Pasvalys. We played well there, we were unfortunate that two of our good guys got lost to injury [in the bronze-medal series in LKL]. I guess this year is going well so far somewhat and hopefully we can continue this streak. Other than that, I got engaged. So that’s pretty cool [smiles], I guess, keep looking to 2016!

Interview with Laimonas Kisielius: